Though you may have heard more about it popping up in the news lately, you may be wondering, what exactly is human trafficking? Bluntly put, it’s the modern term we use for slavery of human beings who are held against their will, often forced to work for no pay in brutalizing conditions. This can take many forms, ranging from women and girls who are forced into prostitution by pimps who feel they “own” them to entire families who are forced to work in the production of clothing or other goods.
More than likely, for many Americans, the term “slavery” conjures up images of the atrocities of the 19th century American South, which we put an end to within our borders long ago right? Don’t be so sure. According to IJM, there are actually more people enslaved today than in the course of the entire Trans-Atlantic Slave trade.
They estimate that globally, there are at this moment around 27 million people being held in captivity, which just to give you an idea, is about the population of almost 20 U.S. states. Out of them, the CIA estimates that over 50,000 people are being trafficked into the United States alone every year.
Here you’ll find quotes by various advocacy groups and individuals who are dedicated to stopping the atrocities of human trafficking, as well as information on what you can do to help.
"We're one of the biggest consumers of labor trafficking. It's not something that happens across the world. It's something that happens here." - Brock D. Nicholson
"Human trafficking is a crime against humanity. We must unite our efforts to free victims and stop this crime that’s become ever more aggressive, that threatens not just individuals, but the foundational values of society." - Pope Francis
"Accept what's being done to their children if you don't mind it being done to your's."
"What we do see is that the trafficking of children is becoming an income revenue stream for organised crime, for gangs. So where they would typically be selling guns and drugs , they are now turning to the selling of children." - Dalia Racine
"We tend to think of human trafficking as a foreign issue, not something that could happen here in our own back yards. But it's a fast-growing problem in the United States, in every area, with no real defined demographic." - Lori Foster
"Perhaps if the rebels were stealing oil rather than children, the world would pay more attention." - David Batstone
“I cannot fail these girls by diverting my eyes from the invisible residue of slavery that clings to them like a shadow.” ― Marquita Burke-DeJesus,
"Of the 1,345 documented instances of human trafficking in the US last year, 973 of them were related to sex trafficking." - The Polaris Project
"Last year all 50 US states and Washington D.C. reported instances of Human trafficking."
"Slavery was abolished 150 years ago... and yet there are more people in slavery today than any other time in our history."
“[S]ex trafficking and mass rape should no more be seen as women's issues than slavery was a black issue or the Holocaust was a Jewish issue. These are all humanitarian concerns, transcending any one race, gender, or creed.” ― Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
“People were created to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason why the world is in chaos, is because things are being loved and people are being used.” ― John Green, Looking for Alaska
“You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” ― William Wilberforce
In his book, Not for Sale, author and anti-trafficking advocate David Batstone reveals that “Attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice have prosecuted slave-trade activity in 91 cities across the United States and in nearly every state in the nation.”
He goes on to reveal that trafficking victims are regularly brought into the United States from at least 35 other countries and are most commonly smuggled in via major ports in states like California, Florida, Texas, and New York. Other popular states for traffickers include Nevada and Ohio due to factors like their adjancency to International borders and number of airports.
How could this happen you may ask? In a variety of ways. Human traffickers regularly prey on the weak including the poor, orphans, and the very young. For instance, a common scam is offering a young girl an American passport along with the prospect of a job upon arrival. It isn’t until she arrives in Vegas however, that she realizes she’s been sold as a slave to a pimp who refuses her access to her passport. Thus she finds herself in a foreign country, surrounded by people whose language she doesn’t speak, and the fear of prosecution should she try to set out on her own.
So what can you do to help stop the atrocities of human trafficking around the world? A few simple ways include being alert- whether it be of where exactly the clothes you purchase were produced, buying fair trade products, or reporting any activity that looks suspicious. Below you’ll find a trafficking hotline you can use to spread awareness and report any potentially abusive situations you come across, whether they be in the garment district, to hotels where some trafficking victims are forced to work for free as maids.
For more information on trafficking and ways you can help stop it, check out the Polaris Project at polarisproject.org